It’s a brisk winter day in Washington, DC. A scared, humiliated college football star being crushed by the media spotlight and a web of lies, makes his way to a nondescript office, opens the door and says he needs help. He says it’s been uncovered that a story about his dying girlfriend, a story that helped to propel him into the national spotlight and made him the face of one of the top football programs in the country, was all a hoax. The media is breathing down his neck. There are questions swirling about how much he knew. Was he in on it? Did he make it all up to get a better shot at a Heisman Trophy or maybe even endorsements? Or is he just a fool who fell in love with a non-exsistent person on the other end of the computer? Regardless of the truth, all the speculation has the potential to ruin his dream of making it to the NFL as a top draft pick? He needs help bad and he needs someone with influence and the power to control the media dialogue to get him out of this mess. He needs a gladiator…in a suit.
This is how Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o's story would play out if he were on the TV show Scandal. (Oh what, you don’t know what Scandal is? You’ve got something better to do with your Thursday nights? You think you’re better than me?!! Chump…) Te’o's real-life drama makes the show, which up until now felt like a far-fetched masterpiece, seem not so far-fetched afterall. It’s about fictional character Olivia Pope and her agency of “fixers.” They fix things…and they talk really fast while doing it. Their clients have all screwed up or been screwed over in a major way. And it’s up to Olivia Pope and Associates to make the mess disappear. Wanna run away from your abusive husband who happens to be a foreign dictator? Call Olivia Pope! Wanna get off scott free in an air-tight federal case against you for the murder of 7 people? Call Olivia Pope! Wanna manipulate the outcome of a presidential election? No worries, she’ll handle that too…and give the President a quickie, on the house!
Which bring us back to Manti Te’o. His bizarre predicament fits right into Olivia Pope’s world of madness and deception. The story of his fake dead girlfriend makes him at best a total idiot and at worst a monster. Either way, it will take a PR miracle to save him from this debacle. It fits so perfectly into a Scandal episode, we managed to recreate the scenario using actual lines from the TV show. Oh what fun!
Manti Te’o: I lost a person. I need you to help me track them, or hunt them, or whatever it is you do to find someone right this instant.
Redhead: I know you love this girl, but I have to ask. Is there any chance she was involved in setting you up?
Manti Te’o: It’s not easy living a lie, pretending everything’s perfect when it’s not. I learned that lesson a while ago. I keep asking myself, what am I going to do? I mean, I can keep the stories going for so long. What am I gonna do?
Huck (In a raspy, nearly incoherent tone): Olivia Pope fixes things. That’s who she is. You need fixing. I don’t need to know your story. We all have a story. You’re a stray dog and Olivia took you in. Don’t question it.
Manti Te’o: The American people put their trust in me. I’ve already let them down.
Olivia Pope: You’re lying, which isn’t the problem. The problem is you suck at it. Every time you do it, you look like you’re about to cry. You look like you’re about to cry right now.
Manti Te’o: You want me to go down for this.
Black Dude: Just because you don’t see things happening, doesn’t mean things aren’t happening. With Olivia, things are always happening.
Olivia: In a case like this, perception is more important than evidence. The truth doesn’t matter.
Manti Te’o: In a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, and that’s all that life ever really is, you never want to tip your hand.
Olivia: It’s a dirty little secret. And dirty little secrets always come out.
Manti Te’o: Honesty isn’t a strategy, Olivia.
Olivia: Saying ‘honesty isn’t a strategy,’ is a strategy. No one wants to see you succeed more than I do, but you can’t just talk about wearing the white hat. You can’t just fight the good fight. We live in the real world. Remember that.
President Fitz: What do you want me to do, Liv? I’m in love with you, you’re the love of my life, I can’t breathe without you! I wait for you, I watch for you, I exist for you!
Manti Te’o:Excuse me?
Olivia: You want answers, fine, you’ll get them. But you have to trust me when I tell you that it’s in your own best interest that you don’t have every piece of the puzzle right now.
Manti Te’o: Liv, I won’t let you down this time. I promise.
Olivia:You’d be surprised what powerful people can get away with behind closed doors.
Manti Te’o: Mention me in your prayers this morning. I’ll take all I can get.
Sadly for Manti, the miraculous Olivia Pope only exists on TV. But her character is based on a real-life fixer, the kind that he’ll need to overcome all the scrutiny that will follow him from here on out. He’s currently being represented by Hollywood powerhouse CAA. They’re the kind of folks that make it possible for people like Mel Gibson to still get an invitation to the Golden Globes.
It appears Te’o and Notre Dame for the moment seem content to stick with the “he didn’t know his girlfriend was fake story.” His spin doctors have opted for the sympathy vote. Te’o was duped and once he realized it, he was too embarrassed to go public. He’s just a sweet, innocent Mormon kid who didn’t know any better. Computer thingys and talking boxes= much confusing!!
This story will fascinate us..until the next person screws up and Manti will just go back to being a football player whose name makes you snicker. “Teo-ing” will no longer be a thing. The Olivia Popes of the world will have successfully done their jobs of walking in the room with a cute puppy and distracting all of us from the elephant.